Table game idea? Stick with what works
June 14, 2016 3:00 AM
by Elliot Frome
If you wanted to learn how to hit a baseball who would you go to? Personally, I’d want a lesson from Keith Hernandez. As a diehard Mets’ fan, I hear him on the broadcasts discuss hitting, and the guy knows what he is talking about.
Combine that with his lifetime .300 batting average and his overall stats and I think my decision makes sense. The bottom line is I’m going to an accomplished major league hitter for advice. While there are many others you could go to, if you told me you wanted to talk to Ruben Tejada (a lifetime .250 hitter?), I’d really have to question your judgment.
The same is true if you want to learn how to invent a casino game. Who are you going to go to for advice? Are you going to listen a prolific inventor or the suggestion of your brother-in-law who has never invented a game, but likes to go to the casinos once in a while? I consider Roger Snow to be one of (if not the) most successful game inventors out there. Ironically, he’ll tell you he’s also had more failures than anyone else, but that is the nature of an industry where a very small percent of new games actually succeed.
When Roger gives advice to inventors, one of the things he will always suggest is to fish in the big pond. This essentially means to look at games that are successful and realize they are for a reason. Thus, searching for something that is so out of the ordinary might mean you are fishing in a small pond. If you look at most of the proprietary table games, you’ll note they fall into three major categories:
• Sidebets to existing games (mostly non-proprietary games like blackjack);
• Blackjack variants
• Poker based games
You’d be hard pressed to name a game that doesn’t fall into one of these three categories. Let’s take a closer look at each category.
There are a lot of these games out there. There are thousands of blackjack tables out there. If you get 100 to 200 placements, you could be talking about a lot of money over a few years. No one has yet conquered this market. Games come and go. It is a potentially lucrative market, but it can be a tough game to develop compelling sidebets for.
Spanish 21, Blackjack Switch, Free Bet Blackjack. These games have made a lot of money for their owners. They are complete games with their own changes from blackjack.
Spanish 21 uses a Pontoon deck (no 10’s). The other two use the Push 22 rule, which creates an 8-9% house advantage that is then reduced by giving the player a variety of advantages.
These changes create a new compelling game. Please don’t simply have the player try to get closer to 11, 31, 51 or 101. These have been tried, haven’t worked and are not going to.
Poker based games
Three Card Poker, Four Card Poker, Crazy 4 Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud Poker. They use a standard 52-card deck and usual poker hands. They can be against the dealer or they can be against a paytable.
Paytable games are usually less intimidating, but definitely acceptable. Let It Ride and Mississippi Stud have been very successful. Three Card Poker and Ultimate Texas Hold’em are the top games of all time.
If I only had a dollar for every time some inventor has pitched a game to me that doesn’t fall into one of these three categories. Now, that doesn’t mean there is zero chance of a success. But, the chance is greatly reduced.
The most common argument I hear is people are sick of poker and blackjack. They want something new and different. There is some truth to this. The non-poker, non-blackjack games keep their interest for a few hours and then they’re ready to go back.
Players (and casinos) are not sick of new games, because sooner or later, another poker based game or blackjack variant comes along.
I’ve mentioned in the past few weeks a new game called Zappit Blackjack – yet another blackjack variant that might be poised to become the next big game.
So, do you go fishing in the big pond or try to sell the casino on the game that uses a 45-card deck with hand rankings that no one has ever heard of with 3 suits and 15 ranks?
If you want to land a big fish, I think there is really only one choice.
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Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is www.gambatria.com Email: ElliotFrome@GamingToday.com